When the play is performed, the actors playing the characters of Mickey, Edward, Linda and Sammy all play these characters as children, teenagers and adults. Willy Russell states in his notes at the beginning of the play that the same actors should play these characters throughout. This means that the actors have to play their characters in different ways according to the age of the character at that moment in the play.
When Mickey is aged seven, he is friendly, open and easily upset; when Mickey is a teenager, he is awkward, embarrassed and hides his feelings; after coming out of prison, Mickey is depressed and unable to communicate his feelings fully. The actor playing Mickey has to use his voice, facial expressions and body language to convey these changes to the audience so that they can follow the storyline correctly.
As a child, Edward is very friendly and eager to make friends; as a teenager, he is warm and fun-loving (although he doesn’t understand Mickey’s problems when he is in his late teens); as an adult, he appears in the play less but he is a successful, professional man.
Unlike the twins, Mrs Johnstone stays very similar throughout. She is down-to-earth and very affectionate towards her children. At the start of the play, Mrs Johnstone is struggling a lot to support her family and would show this in the way she acts but in the second act she is more relaxed and content.
At the beginning of the play, Mrs Lyons is in control and manipulative, however, she becomes increasingly insecure after taking Edward from Mrs Johnstone. In the second act, Mrs Lyons loses control and becomes irrational and violent towards Mrs Johnstone.
The Narrator is a difficult character to play in a different way because he does not interact with other characters in a normal way; he speaks to them and about them but they do not show awareness of his presence.
The Narrator is on stage throughout the play, watching the characters and commenting on events. This can be played in different ways: sometimes the Narrator is played as a sinister, threatening character and sometimes he is more objective in the way he is played.
Regardless of the way he is depicted, the Narrator is always mysterious and creates an important link between the audience and what is happening on stage, through speaking directly to those watching and asking them questions.